Gaming Librarian Spotlight title image

Gaming Librarian Spotlight: Madeleine Belk

Tell us about yourself. In a nutshell, who are you and what is your role at your library?

Picture of Madeleine Belk in at a Gingerbread Castle game event.

I am a youth services librarian. I do mostly teen programming but I also do 7 and up programs too. I order video games, manga, and teen fiction books. I was really excited to start up the manga and video game collections at my library because I read a lot of manga and I’m a huge gamer.

My current project is making “Teen Learn It Kits”. The Teen Kits are like a program in a box! I made them for a bunch of different crafts like learning how to crochet for example. In the box you get a book that teaches you how to crochet, crochet hooks, and yarn. Then when we check the kit back in we replace the yarn so the teens can keep what they make! Right now I’m working on an expansion of this idea with Teen Learn It Kits Games. I have a D&D box with an ocean adventure I wrote
complete with tokens, maps, and character sheets. I also have one for Cats of Catthulhu and Perils and Princesses! Those are set to launch this summer and I’m really excited to see how they do in circulation.

How would you define a gamer?

A gamer is someone who says they love games! You have played D&D since the 80s? Gamer! You played once last week? Gamer! Honestly, I just love when people try gaming even if you don’t define yourself as a gamer. I got a co-worker to play a TTRPG once and she would not define herself as a gamer, but I sure think she counts!

What got you into gaming?

I was really interested in playing D&D in high school but I couldn’t find anyone to play with. When I got to college I mentioned that I’ve always wanted to play a TTRPG in a class and a cute boy said he’d run a game for me. We’re married now.

What is your favorite game? Why? 

Cover image of Call of Cthulhu Rulebook

Call of Cthulhu! I love a good mystery and the horror setting is so thrilling. Knowing one wrong choice could end your character makes you really think hard about your choices. If my character does die its usually because I’m way too invested in solving the mystery and I uncover a monster in the process. I also love the historical settings that CoC offers. I just got the books for Dark Ages and Regency and I’m quite excited to write in those settings.

What game are you excited by right now? Why?

Perils and Princesses is a game I kickstarted and I am really loving the system. I have been working on my Learn It Kit for this game and the character creation process was really fun. I’ve got some people who said they would play a session for me to test out running it before I do it as a library program so I’m quite excited for that. The more simple stat system really lowers the entry age for the game so I can run it for a younger group. I get a lot of interest from our 8 year old and up patrons so this should be perfect!

Share a program that you have developed or participated in that you were really proud of or excited by.

I’ve been running D&D at my library for over four years now and I really love it. I started running games at my library about a month or two before COVID and during the pandemic we moved to discord. I had a full game each time I ran it (which was about once a month). When we came back to in person programming I had a few from the discord game and a ton of new kiddos joined. Right now I’m running The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight and after this I’m thinking of doing the setting with the owl race of people in a magic school.

Does your library have a gaming collection? If so, tell us a little bit about it. 

Yes! We mostly have switch games because that was what we first started with when I started the collection about two years ago. We added in purchasing Playstation 5 games and this summer we are going to start buying Xbox games. I’d love it if we could buy games for older systems for people to check out Nintendo DS or PS2 games but right now we don’t have the space for that kind of collection. My Learn It Kit Games collection will also add TTRPGs to our collection! They will have the rules book, the story for the game master, character
sheets, maps and tokens to play with. Everything you need!

What value do games or gaming bring to you, Tell us about a time when you had to advocate for your game programs or collection.

When I first started working at my current library, the Winnetka – Northfield Public Library, we didn’t have a video game collection. I pitched the idea to my manager Amanda and she loved the idea so she set up a meeting for me with the adult services manager and our new director. I came in with all these great facts about
how great video games are and how interesting the stories can be and how lots of libraries have game collections, ect. I didn’t even get to all that before they both agreed and said they also are gamers and they’d love a collection. Then I got a budget and spent a lot of money!

What value do games or gaming bring to you, personally?

I love stories. I love stories in all their many different forms. I love hearing someone tell me a story, I love reading stories, and I love the way that gaming gets you involved in a story. When I play something like Eternal Darkness on the GameCube I really FEEL the struggle all the characters experienced in their fight against the forces of evil and corruption throughout all of human history. When I play a Persona game I get to feel what its like to be a high school student in a country I don’t live in (and also what its like to kill a god which is also cool). When I play D&D or Call of Cthulhu I get to try things I’d never get to experience in my real life like casting spells or fighting monsters. Passively experiencing stories is great and also one of my favorite pastimes, but being a part of the narrative is what really makes me come alive.

What value do games bring to your library community? 

Seeing kids come into a program as strangers and leave two hours later as friends who triumphed over challenges together is worth all the time I spend preparing a story and making little character and monster tokens. When I ran games on discord during the pandemic I ran for entire families who usually have one parent run the game but this time they all could play together. I think the time and connections people in my library’s community make have so much value.

What is one thing about games or what you do with games that people don’t know about, but that you wish they knew? 

You don’t have to read a ton and know everything there is to know about a game before you try it. The best way to learn is just by doing it. Even if you don’t like it, that’s ok you still tried.

Do you think gaming will grow in libraries? why or why not?

Oh absolutely. At heart, I believe librarians are people who love stories. Window stories, mirror stories, all kinds. Games, TTRPGs or video games, are just stories to be experienced. I think if more people just tried a game once they would understand it in a way that hearing other people talk about it can’t explain.

What would you tell someone who wants to bring game programs or collections to their library? 

The best advice I can give is to either run the game yourself or find someone with game master experience to hire to run the game. Everyone loves to play, and running the game can be a lot of work so to ensure it is a successful program, put the time and love into it and patrons will want to come back.

Thank you Madeleine Belk!


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